Intriguing final round, though status quo appears likely
Although two clubs are out of playoff contention – and odds have to favour maintenance of the current standings - there are still possible scenarios that could arise going into the final round of Australian Baseball League regular season.
At home to Perth Heat (23-29), Brisbane Bandits (33-19) will surely be able to win the two games they require to guarantee top placing – even supposing that Canberra Cavalry (30-22) can sweep Adelaide Bite (27-25), which needs just one win to secure third placing.
Playing host to Melbourne Aces (19-33), Sydney Blue Sox (24-28) would need to sweep the visitors and trust that Adelaide falls over to have a shot at sneaking a Preliminary Finals berth.
NOTE: the Blue Sox versus Aces Sunday clash is the Game of the Week to be televised by ESPN, Fox Sports Asia and MLB Network. To meet media timing commitments, it has been rescheduled to 4.00 PM AEDST.
WEEK FOURTEEN AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE PREVIEW
20 January 2016
ADELAIDE BITE versus CANBERRA CAVALRY (Norwood)
Thursday 21 January, 7.00 ACDT
Friday 22 January, 7.00 ACDT
Saturday 23 January, 7.00 ACDT
Sunday 24 January, 12.00 ACDT
Last series – The Cavalry clinched a playoff spot with three wins over the Blue Sox. The Bite ensured they’re in the box seat this weekend, taking their series against Perth by the same result.
What’s coming – Both sides are desperate for at least one victory to seal their playoff fate (for Adelaide) and the sought-after home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs (for Canberra). Once the dust settles this series serves as a good opportunity for both sides to tinker with their lineup before they enter the playoffs, where they will likely meet each other.
Pay attention to – This series to see what changes in other series across the weekend. An early win for Adelaide coupled with a win to Brisbane settles the picture. If Canberra, Perth and Sydney were all to win early it would be a tense few days at Norwood Oval.
Playoff implications – Canberra will finish first if they win three more games than Brisbane this weekend however they will finish second if they win at least one game against Adelaide. Adelaide will finish second if they sweep Canberra and finish third if they win one game against Canberra or Sydney lose one game against the Aces.
Prediction – Both teams know what they need to do and will make sure they do it. A split will see these teams line up again next week for a shot at Brisbane for the Claxton Shield.
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus MELBOURNE ACES (Blacktown Sportspark)
Thursday 21 January, 7.30 AEDST
Friday 22 January, 7.30 AEDST
Saturday 23 January, 6.30 AEDST
Sunday 24 January, 4.00 AEDST
Last series – The Aces struggled against a Bandits outfit on a mission, dropping the first three before winning the series finale. The Blue Sox couldn’t find a way past the Blue Sox with Twins prospect Lachlan Wells providing the lone bright spot across the weekend.
What’s coming – Two sides who are looking to finish their inconsistent seasons on a high note. The Blue Sox inconsistency has put them in a position where they may miss the playoffs for the first time ever, while the Aces are again left to lament their away form.
Pay attention to – Stolen Bags. Melbourne and Sydney have combined for 99 stolen bases this season and there’s likely to be more speed in action this weekend. The Blue Sox need to score frequently to give themselves any chance at climbing to third, while the Aces have nothing to lose.
Playoff implications – The odds may be slim but there is still a chance the Blue Sox make the playoffs. They’ll need to sweep Melbourne and have Canberra sweep Adelaide if they are to finish third.
Prediction – The Aces aren’t going to win their first ever away series this weekend. A 3-1 series victory to the Blue Sox will be a good finish to the season but it won’t be enough based on other results.
BRISBANE BANDITS versus PERTH HEAT (Holloway Field)
Thursday 21 January, 6.30 AEST
Friday 22 January, 6.30 AEST
Saturday 23 January, 6.30 AEST
Sunday 24 January, 2.00 AEST
Last series – Perth were eliminated for the first time ever as they lost the series to the Bite. The Bandits kept on the path towards their first playoff appearance, winning three out of four games in Melbourne.
What’s coming – A changing of the guard. The Bandits have shown all season that they are ready to step up and be the next ABL dynasty, and this weekend is a good chance for them to showcase their claim. Earlier this season the Bandits took their first ever away series from the Heat, and a repeat of that this weekend - albeit back at Holloway Field - would be fair reward for their season of dominance.
Pay attention to – Strikeouts. The Bandits and Heat are first and third respectively in the number of strikeouts by the pitching staff this season. They’ve combined for 742 strikeouts, an average of 14.26 per game. It’s hard to see how this doesn’t continue this weekend, especially when your factor in the Heat’s team batting average for the season - .226.
Playoff implications – The Bandits need any combination of two wins, one win and one Canberra loss or no wins and two or more Canberra losses to clinch home field advantage for the ABLCS.
Prediction – The Bandits will be aiming for the week off. To get that they’re going to go hard at the Heat and as a result they’re going to take three of four.
Image: Adelaide Now